Trail wear and tear? What's the kind the bothers you?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Trail wear and tear? What's the kind the bothers you?

    I've been wondering about the subject of trail wear and tear and how people perceive it.

    I'm going to pull an occam's razor here, and choose the hypothesis that has the least amount of assumptions: in elementary terms, I just see it as "energy" (layman's term, not scientific/technical term) being transferred to the trail surface. This "energy" could be inertia gained from accelerating through gravity or pedaling. Decelerating transfers that energy into the ground, which includes not only slowing down but also making direction changes.

    - A hiker's boot transfers over half the weight of a person and their gear, spread over a small foot print as a footfall impact.

    - A horse's hoof does something similar, but there's more weight and a smaller area to spread that weight across, so it appears to do more damage.

    - A tire that's pumped up to 40 psi has a smaller contact patch than one pumped up to 10 psi. This would mean that a fat bike's 3.8+ tires, which are rideable at such low pressures, are spreading the weight of a person and the bike across a wide area, and less likely to tear it up. Spreading the force into a rolling force, over the same distance traveled, should make the wear and tear seem less impactful.

    Okay, so that's where the hypothesis based on facts stops, and opinions and observations need to fill in for the rest of the big picture:

    I see people perceiving fast riding on heavy bikes, such as extreme gravity riding, and motor vehicles as being a source of high wear and tear. I'd like to differentiate between wear and tear, using gravity riding as an example. When you can visible see large particles of the ground being moved, such as a roost, it's undeniably seen as erosion (or tear). Would wear then be the gradual erosion that is less noticeable, or tolerated as normal wear that you can't do much about?

    What is the difference between a newbie rider, and average rider, and an highly skilled expert rider in terms of wear and tear? I suspect that their wear & tear is comparable overall, based on the amount of energy is going into the trail, but the difference is where the wear and tear happens and how spread out it is.

    - A newbie rider is putting a lot of energy into the ground through braking, and regaining energy through pedaling (and gravity) after braking, and putting such energy back into the ground through braking, for the sake of caution and survival. Their wear and tear is perhaps carving in the newbie/trap lines, that may have resulted from low speed over-corrections. Per run, the novice might cause significantly more wear, but per outing it may be no more than the others, due to endurance running out sooner.

    - An average rider who's ridden the trail dozens of times, probably brakes the least, and may be reluctant to pedal if it just results in wasted energy going into braking. They're essentially riding in the mainline with their wear and tear, and I daresay that this is a good kind of wear and tear, like breaking in a set of jeans that felt rough at first.

    - An expert rider is probably looking for an extra challenge, and scoping out creative lines and creative ways to get through the same sections, but they probably brake as much as the average rider, but tears their tracks into the trail. Average riders might begin to take such lines if it's worn in enough, and penalty for failure reduced to a tolerable level, and wear it in to be an optional part of the main line.

    Opinion: looking at the condition of trails after a lot of traffic from various users, I wonder if there's anything to complain about from user wear and tear. A few rainy days does more damage than weeks/months of riding in my area, to make any sort of criticism about riders moot. I only have a narrow perspective of the stuff I most frequently see though, so I want to hear from others and learn a bit more about this whole subject's controversy, rather than just going "it's not a problem based on my experience", and using such weak reasoning to be willfully ignorant of the subject as a whole.

    In short, what's the kind of user wear and tear that you see, preferably in your area, that bothers you? Got some trail fairies altering the trail to your dismay? Does anyone believe that gradual wear is not only bad, but also good? Is the good side of gradual wear actually good enough to be consider desirable?

  2. #2
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    Horse footprints are the most annoying to ride on by far but I try not to let it bother me because they have as much right to be there as I do.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    Horse footprints are the most annoying to ride on by far but I try not to let it bother me because they have as much right to be there as I do.
    I do wonder, does anyone have the opinion that more bike traffic is a form of good wear and tear, to essentially undo the damage that horse foot prints do, and possibly lead to the trail returning to a nicely packed ribbon of singletrack?

    I suppose there are some that prefer the paths-less-traveled, which are less packed, groomed, and straight-up less crowded, who might actually enjoy riding over such damage when it's still rough.

  4. #4
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    Most of my trails do not allow/ are used by horses. No issues. Don't skid? All good. Ride, rest, repeat. And show up for trail work days. No that much to it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ninjichor View Post
    I do wonder, does anyone have the opinion that more bike traffic is a form of good wear and tear, to essentially undo the damage that horse foot prints do, and possibly lead to the trail returning to a nicely packed ribbon of singletrack?
    Yes. To a certain extent more bike traffic is good for trails imo, a lot of them don't get enough where I'm at and trail quality (for bikes) suffers due to that.
    I brake for stinkbugs

  6. #6
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    Stravidiots and the high school team cutting corners and switchbacks. The high school thing has been addressed with them putting in some trail work so they have skin in the game. The others are just selfish people.

    The last time I laid down a skidmark was on a fire road as I went into head on collision with a dirt bike. I consider myself an ambassador to the sport and ride with other trail users in mind.
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  7. #7
    Nat
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    Cutting corners to shortcut bothers me. There’s this one section of trail nearby that has multiple connected banked turns. Locals refer to it as “the slalom section.” For some reason some people go straight down the middle to turn a fun set of banked turns into a straight shot. Why??? Do they hate turning that much?

  8. #8
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    Filling in tech spots.

    People hate pass by trails but it saves this from happening. Build a tech spot and then build a ride by beside it. “Yes” stava whores will use it to be faster but frick who cares. They also go out with tail winds and warm up the whole way till specific segments. No one cares, its like reddit points...



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  9. #9
    cmg
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    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    Horse footprints are the most annoying to ride on by far but I try not to let it bother me because they have as much right to be there as I do.
    Horse footprints in snow trails is the absolute worse, they make it virtually unrideable, but as you state they have a right to be there too
    always mad and usually drunk......

  10. #10
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    We had a discussion about "the impact area" of a trail. I mean, really, we just hacked a corridor through the forest. With permissions, and the right techniques, this "impact area" serves to localize ALL of the impact to the trail corridor to keep the impacts manageable. When people leave the corridor: widening, cutting corners, short-cutting, unsanctioned B-lines, I am one of the first people to drag the heaviest log I can find into place to prevent it from continuing (yeah, probably trampling on rare mosses and displacing the local rodent and salamander populations in the process... ).
    Other than that, our trails are built for the purpose of being "impacted". They evolve and change, often for the better (not always, but mostly).

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  11. #11
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    Unless there isn't any human access to it, the best way to protect the land is to build trails on it. Otherwise, you'll end up with a spiderweb of poorly designed social trails, most not consciously built, some that are. Build trails that provide the experience that people want, and the vast majority will stay on them, leaving less impacted areas in between.

    To get to the OP, a new trail is like a new car, the second you drive off of the lot, it begins to change. Trails begin to cup since most users stay in the center, drains fill in, rises compact, generally things like that. All users compact the tread, but at the same time disturb the top surface of it. The steeper the grade, the more users scrabble their way up, and skid their way down, and I'm talking about everyone, hikers, trail runners and riders, not just skid kiddies. Motos and horses are in their own category of impact.

    If a trail is designed well, and has mid level usage, it sort of self stabilizes where I am in Colorado. The loose stuff on the surface and gets either pushed off of the trail in corners or washed off in storms, is replaced by more sediment that washes in from above. If it's too steep, it'll V gulley. Not enough users, and weeds grow in. Too many, and the wear is greater than the replenishment and it begins to fall apart. Worn/tech sections get avoided and you get braiding.

    A well designed trail will need only vegetation cleared back periodically, and check ups on it's drainage features. A poorly designed trail will need constant maintenance to it's tread to keep it in place.

    Trail gradient is even more important in regards to horses and motos, the steeper it gets, the more rototilling.

  12. #12
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    Water erosion is the worst. Even worse IMO than rider-caused ruts/skidmarks right before switchbacks. Those at least tend to be in the middle of the trail, not criss-crossing it all over the place wherever there is the least resistance to water flowing downhill. There are some trails out there were I simply will not go on them again until the are fixed (if I knew it was going to be fixed ---and when--- by a volunteer crew I'd help out). There is one trail near my home that I'd love to fix myself but it's off limits, don't want to get caught with a shovel by the ranger if you know what I mean.

    There are other trails that I'm keeping in mind when there is a light sprinkle of rain, just to get them damp enough that I can go through those eroded parts the next morning at a decent clip and not crash. It sucks knowing that there are otherwise fantastic trails out there that are either unrideable or you have to slow down a lot more than usual because they are so eroded. I have no idea how someone got a KOM on them going 18-20 MPH, that's just maniacal. Maybe it was before they got so eroded.
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  13. #13
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    I was going to say water erosion but someone beat me to it. I was riding some of the trails just outside of the sea otter expo and a combination of sandy, loose trail, subpar tires, and a ton of erosion made for very sketchy riding.

  14. #14
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    Yellow Fork Canyon singletrack water erosion occurring right now due to snow melt. The ditch on the right is the actual creek bed and it's bone dry because the trail is taking on all the water. Sigh.

    Trail wear and tear? What's the kind the bothers you?-yellowforkerosion.jpg
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  15. #15
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    Any trail, no matter the type of traffic that is permitted, will result in soil compaction and erosion. That's just life. The kind of wear and tear that grinds my gears is when a tree falls, or it's a bit muddy, or there's a flat corner, and people decide it's okay to just go around. That creates a snowball effect where the trail begins to grow wider, or possibly braided, and without regular maintenance, really begins to degrade.

    Stay on the trail. Ride straight through mud. Go over trees if at all possible. And volunteer to do some trail maintenance! I was guilty myself of just riding, week-in and week-out, and complaining about trail conditions. Well, there's no time like the present to pick up a bucket and a shovel and do something about it - preferable with help and permission.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by dgw2jr View Post
    Yellow Fork Canyon singletrack water erosion occurring right now due to snow melt. The ditch on the right is the actual creek bed and it's bone dry because the trail is taking on all the water. Sigh.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    That's a textbook design and maintenance failure. I don't really blame the water

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nat View Post
    Cutting corners to shortcut bothers me. There’s this one section of trail nearby that has multiple connected banked turns. Locals refer to it as “the slalom section.” For some reason some people go straight down the middle to turn a fun set of banked turns into a straight shot. Why??? Do they hate turning that much?
    No.....they don't know how to. With the new generation of long/low/slack plow bikes, they don't know how to lean and turn their bikes....it is much easier to point straight and shoot. We have he same issues on some of our trails locally.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbikej View Post
    No.....they don't know how to. With the new generation of long/low/slack plow bikes, they don't know how to lean and turn their bikes....it is much easier to point straight and shoot. We have he same issues on some of our trails locally.
    I seriously doubt geometry has anything to do with it.
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  19. #19
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    our biggest issue is people riding when they shouldn't, or not having the "trail etiquete" and knowing how to ride through wet if it is there.

    There are places where the water collects during run off ,and those areas are sometimes wet even into the high summer just because of drainage and relation to the water table. They are spots that are easy to spot when riding. Most people ride around the edges, thus "caving in" the dirt on the edge and making the spot bigger.

    The local trail guys have been filling in some of the spots with gravel, and even building some skinnies to bridge, but the few spots that aren't fixed get really bad. When they do dry out, it is like a mini canyon of ruts...

    we also have some people who do their own trail sanitization
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  20. #20
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    Worst kind of trail damage? Horseback riders who come out after it rains leaving "post holes" all down the trail. Ugh. Of course, erosion is another issue. Unlike other places I've lived, the soil here has nothing to hold it in place when it rains, so erosion channels form quickly and can get quite deep, often making trails very treacherous to ride.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by ninjichor View Post
    I do wonder, does anyone have the opinion that more bike traffic is a form of good wear and tear, to essentially undo the damage that horse foot prints do, and possibly lead to the trail returning to a nicely packed ribbon of singletrack?

    I suppose there are some that prefer the paths-less-traveled, which are less packed, groomed, and straight-up less crowded, who might actually enjoy riding over such damage when it's still rough.
    Absolutely MTB tires help roll out the post holes left by horses, at least to a degree depending on soil type and moisture conditions.

    It's a battle I'm fighting on the trails closest to my house. I ride these trails year round. They hold up to MTB traffic extremely well in our wet PNW winter months. The trails get firm and compacted during the dry summer/fall months, and keep their firm base over the winter with the exception of few spots with drainage issues. Just a slick/slimy 1" layer of duff and fine sediment on top but no actual rutting from of the firm soil beneath from MTB tires.

    For the most part, the equestrians stay off the trails most of the winter while it is cold and rainy. They are fair weather riders, but they start showing up when the weather gets nice in the spring. Those firm trails that held up so well all winter during our wettest months suddenly get roto-tilled and post holed by the horses. All that loosened soil and post-holes retain the water and allow it to soak in and soften the base. Rinse and repeat and you get trail conditions like I encountered last night.

    Trail wear and tear? What's the kind the bothers you?-horse-damage.jpg

    I should have taken a picture of the fork in the trail where the horse traffic turned left. The trail on the right looked like pristine hero dirt. The horse traveled section, as you can see was a quagmire. It's a race this time of year to keep rolling the hoof prints smooth before they harden up and set firm for the summer.
    No dig no whine

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